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Monday Morning Lights: Top storylines heading into this weekend’s season openers

Monday Morning Lights: Top storylines heading into this weekend’s season openers

Welcome back to Monday Morning Lights, our weekly feature that sheds more light on the high school football weekend and peeks ahead to the new week. If you haven’t already, please subscribe. Your contributions keep us going.

SERRA, FOLSOM SET FOR REMATCH

No, the decision-makers at Northern California powers Serra and Folsom were not trying to mimic Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff when they picked a noon start time for their rematch on Saturday.

As Serra coach Patrick Walsh tells it, the Folsom staff coaches both the varsity and JV teams, normally playing the JV game the day before the varsity game.

With both games at Serra scheduled for Saturday, the schools will play the varsity game first, followed by the JV, so the Folsom staff is fresh for the bigger matchup.

And what a matchup it is.

Serra was last season’s undisputed No. 1 team in Northern California.

The Padres opened the season with a 17-12 victory at Folsom, followed by a 24-21 triumph at De La Salle.

Nearly all of the key players are back for Serra – QB Maealiuaki Smith, safety Joseph Bey, RB/LB Jabari Mann, RB/LB Danny Niu, etc. – making the Padres the top-ranked team going into the season.

But Walsh and his players know that rankings won’t win the game Saturday, nor the following Saturday at home against De La Salle.

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To that end, Walsh is thrilled to have a veteran squad that he hopes will need no motivation and give the coaches a clean canvas from which to do their jobs.

“I would think that the utopian coaching moment would be when a coach never has to motivate but can just teach,” Walsh said. “I am curious if that can happen this year. That’s what I am most excited about.

“What more do these guys need to know about what it means to be a Serra Padre football player? There is nothing more I can teach them. So maybe it’s time for them to teach me and our staff and our community what it means to them.”

The first test is Saturday.

– Darren Sabedra

DLS FACES TRINITY LEAGUE OPPONENT

It won’t be St. John Bosco-Bellflower of Mater Dei-Santa Ana visiting De La Salle on Friday.

But it will be an opponent familiar with the national powers.

Orange Lutheran, which like Bosco and Mater Dei calls the Trinity League home, is traveling to Concord to open De La Salle’s season.

The Southern California team is coming off an impressive first game, a 47-19 rout of Serra-Gardena on Friday.

“Some people up here don’t know Orange Lutheran,” DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said after his team’s scrimmage at home on Friday against Jesuit-Carmichael. “They’re going to be really good. When you’re considered in the top half of the Trinity League, you’re doing something right.

“That’s what I just told the guys. Their entire offensive line is (big). They’re going to have speed. Their quarterback can run. Defensively, they’re going to be big up front and fast everywhere else. We’re going to have to be really good, but that’s why we scheduled the game.”

– Darren Sabedra

A NEW ERA AT PITTSBURG, CLAYTON VALLEY, OTHERS

Pittsburg football coach Charlie Ramirez (left) talks to former Pittsburg football coach Victor Galli at the scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 18 at Pittsburg High School (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

Pittsburg’s new coach Charlie Ramirez has huge shoes to fill, but at least he’ll have company. 

Victor Galli led Pittsburg for 21 years, and Tim Murphy guided Clayton Valley Charter for 11.

Their presence was as certain as the changing seasons. 

But nothing lasts forever, and Pitt and CVC are among the schools entering a new era after their longtime coaches stepped away. 

Ramirez was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach. At CVC, Nick Tisa took over after years of working alongside Murphy. 

“I don’t think there’s any added pressure, since being from here and graduating from here and coaching for the last 20 years, I know the dynamic and what comes with it,” Ramirez said. “The great thing about Pittsburg is that the community support is always there.”

Galli was on the sidelines at the start of the scrimmage, and Ramirez said the man has done everything he can to help Ramirez transition from coordinator to the leader of the program. 

Elsewhere, Bellarmine alum David Diaz-Infante has replaced Jalal Beauchman following the Bells’ NorCal championship season, and former USC assistant Lenny Vandermade is in charge of St. Ignatius after John Regalia, who coached the Wildcats for 12 years, turned to full-time teaching.

– Joseph Dycus

WHO IS JAMES LOGAN’S NEW QB?

James Logan quarterback Jonathan Craft drops back to throw a pass at the scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 18 at Pittsburg High School (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

Even though running was limited in the scrimmage setting Friday, James Logan’s junior quarterback Jonathan Craft showed exactly why coach Eddie Smith is thrilled to have him under center. 

“Speed,” was the only word Smith needed to say when asked to name the Valley Christian transfer’s greatest strength.

Though Craft said he was gifted at improvising in space, the Union City native also flashed an accurate arm and a willingness to keep his eyes downfield when scrambling against Monte Vista. 

The junior will need to be a threat in both aspects of the game if the Colts are to dethrone Tennyson in the MVAL/WACC Foothill Division.

James Logan’s season starts Friday at home against Archbishop Mitty.

“I’m trying to be both a precision passer and a runner,” Craft said.

– Joseph Dycus

EXTRA POINTS

DLS: HALL OF FAME COACHES

Legendary De La Salle football coach Bob Ladouceur, who stepped down after the 2012 season, and his longtime defensive coach Terry Eidson are part of the school’s 2023 Athletic Hall of Fame class that will be inducted on Oct. 1.

Ladouceur, hired in 1979, led the program to an astonishing  399-25-3 record before handing the reins to Alumbaugh.

Eidson was there for many of the football wins but also coached baseball and golf.

As the De La Salle news release noted, “It was never a matter of if Terry would be inducted to the De La Salle Athletic Hall of Fame, the question was when and for which sport?”

Ladouceur and Eidson guided the Spartans to a national-record 151 consecutive victories, starting in the season opener in 1992 and ending in the season opener in 2004.

— Darren Sabedra

HOME AT LAST FOR CASTLEMONT

Castlemont spent 2022 as a team without a home, in every facet, while its facilities were being renovated. 

The Knights have a home now.

Starting with its season opener on Sept. 1 against St. Patrick-St. Vincent, Castlemont will enjoy arguably the best facilities in the Oakland Athletic League.

Before leading the Knights to a touchdown in a scrimmage Friday at Pittsburg, quarterback Elvin Smith IV gushed about the difference the team’s new home will make.

“Now that we have a field, we can just go to the school and practice safely,” Smith said. “We needed this. We needed a new field, and we’re gonna take care of it.”

– Joseph Dycus

NEWLOOK MONTE VISTA HAS SIZE, SPEED

Monte Vista running back Julian McMahan (29) runs for a touchdown against Castlemont at the scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 18 at Pittsburg High School (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

When you play in the East Bay Athletic League against perennial powerhouse De La Salle and strong programs such as Clayton Valley and San Ramon Valley, you need to have something special to keep up.

After a 2-8 debut in 2022, second-year coach Johnny Millard spent his first full offseason making sure his team lived in the weight room. It also doesn’t hurt that last year’s inexperienced sophomores are now grizzled juniors. 

Kellan Ford, listed as a 6-foot-5 TE/DE, and Julian McMahan, a swift and tall 6-3 running back, looked like the three-star college prospects they are at Pittsburg’s scrimmage. McMahan in particular shrugged off tacklers with ease.

“The dedication to the weight room and nutrition is paying off,” Millard said. 

– Joseph Dycus

PEEK AHEAD TO WEEK 1

Friday

El Cerrito at Amador Valley, 7 p.m.: El Cerrito, coming off a trip to the NorCal 3-AA title game, faces an Amador Valley team that is favored to win the EBAL Valley Division.

Menlo-Atherton vs. Bellarmine at San Jose City College, 7 p.m.: This has become a traditional opener for both teams. M-A won last season’s matchup 48-34.

Wilcox at Valley Christian, 7 p.m.:  Much improved Valley Christian will try to avenge last season’s 35-13 loss to Wilcox.

Helix-La Mesa at St. Francis, 7 p.m.: Helix slipped past Edison-Huntington Beach 38-34 in a season opener on Friday. 

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Orange Lutheran at De La Salle, 7:30 p.m.: First meeting between the teams since 2015. De La Salle won 41-3.

Mitty at Logan, 7 p.m.: Mitty, which lost the majority of its top players from last year’s CCS Division I runner-up, will face a team favored by coaches to win the MVAL/WACC Foothill Division. 

San Ramon Valley at St. Ignatius, 7 p.m.: QB Luke Baker, the reigning Bay Area News Group player of the year, gets a big road test to open his senior season. 

Saturday

Folsom at Serra, noon: Folsom cruised to a 35-0 rout of Monterey Trail-Elk Grove in a season opener on Friday. Bulldogs scored all of their points before halftime.

Pittsburg vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral at Kezar Stadium, 1 p.m.: Pittsburg’s first game against Sacred Heart Cathedral since the Pirates beat the San Francisco school 32-21 in 2008.